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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Online Library of Selected Images
Spanish American War:
U.S. NAVY SHIPS -- Gunboats and Torpedo Boats

The smallest regular warships in the 1898 U.S. Navy were rated as gunboats and torpedo boats. These ship types had very different functions. Gunboats were essentially small cruising warships, lacking the speed, protection and much of the firepower of the larger ships rated as "cruisers", but very capable of executing presence missions in peacetime. In war, they could conduct blockade and patrol operations in areas of lesser operational importance, or where powerful enemy forces were unlikely to be found. Their missions required that gunboats generally be robust vessels with good endurance and relatively light draft. Several gunboats retained sails to enhance operating range.

Torpedo boats, on the other hand, were specialized ships -- narrow, lightly built and fast. Their main weapon was the torpedo, which made it possible for smaller ships to defeat much larger ones under the right circumstances. The U.S. Navy's torpedo boats also acted as tactical scouts and dispatch vessels.

During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy actively employed seventeen gunboats and ten torpedo boats.

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures provided here are all in the public domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.

If better quality reproductions than these digital images are desired, follow this link to "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."


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13 March 1998